The NS Blog

  • An NS view of the Grammys

    Bass player Amos Heller has played just about every kind of music you can think of—from classical music to Zappa-esque rock, with some worship music and combo jazz in between. Since moving to Nashville in 2005, he’s been backing up a number of big acts, but his biggest gig yet was playing the 2009 Grammy Awards ceremony with young country singers Taylor Swift and Milley Cyrus. He wrote us recently to say that his NS Bass played well among the stars:

    So there I was at the Grammys.

    Man, is that a totally “check me out” way to start a story. Like I’m trying to be all super-casual about the coolest place I’ve ever played bass. Like I didn’t just watch Sir Paul McCartney walk by me, didn’t listen to Stevie Wonder soundcheck, and didn’t play in a room in front of everyone I’ve ever heard of. But it’s part of the story, so go with it, if you can.

    So there I was at the Grammys. I had a lovely time backing up Miss Taylor Swift (my lovely and talented boss) and miss Miley Cyrus playing a stripped-down, laid-back version of Taylor’s song “Fifteen.” It’s an award show, and for those of you that have never played one, it means a LOT of acts are playing, and the fact that it’s live TV means that you have to hustle on, do your thing, and hustle off. Our hustling-on was held up by Snoop Dogg. Man, that dude walks slow and his bodyguard is massive.

    The number we did took place on a second stage, out in the audience, in amongst the seats. We didn’t have time to take it all in as we got ready to play, as I was busy thinking about the things I always tend to think about when we’re playing live: “don’t look at the cameras, don’t mess up, don’t look at the cameras, don’t mess up…”

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    We get through our song, and it went off without a hitch, and now it’s time for us to hustle off. As I’m unplugging, and trying not to brain anyone with my bass or tripod, someone pokes me in the arm.

    I have just enough time to put together the large frame, razor-sharp fedora, glasses and impeccable suit to realize that I’d just been playing bass three feet from Jimmy Jam.

    Jimmy Jam. One of the most prolific producers ever. Part of the Time. That’s as in “Morris Day and The.” And in that instant- before we have to clear the floor when I realize who this is and how long I’ve been listening to songs that he’s made- he says just one thing:

    “That’s a nice bass, man.”

    Be sure to catch Amos as he backs up Taylor Swift on tour this summer.

  • Good ergonomics makes good music

    Dave Rowe, leader of the Maine-based Dave Rowe trio and a good friend of NS Design, recently began using the Boomerang Shoulder Strap on his Steinberger Synapse guitar. Not only has it made the instrument more comfortable to play, Dave says the improved ergonomics have made his playing better:

    “It has been about six months since I have been using the Boomerang on my Steinberger Synapse guitar, and the difference it has made in the ergonomics of the guitar is nothing short of astonishing. I took a semester of classical guitar in college which made me realize how important ergonomics are to proper playing position. I remember my teacher telling me that any muscle tension anywhere on the body will translate into the music somehow.

    The Boomerang Shoulder Strap

    “I never realized how much effort we guitar players expend on merely holding the instrument in the optimum playing position until the Boomerang started doing it for me. My playing has improved since I have been using this and as a side benefit, the chronic tennis elbow I had been suffering for over a year disappeared within two weeks of using the Boomerang.

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    “The Boomerang is a truly transcendent device which should find its way into wide use and could be a significant ergonomic benefit to most any solid body instrument.”

    Dave

    Be sure to check Dave out on the web at http://www.daverowemusic.com.

    We’re always interested to hear about your experiences with NS instruments and support systems. Send us an email or leave a comment if you have a story to share.

  • We have a winner!

    NS Design is pleased to announce the name of its new line of electric bowed instruments: the NXT series.

    The NXT name was selected from among over 1,100 entries in an online contest, held from June 1st to June 15th. Bass-player Catherine Konrath made the winning entry—time-stamped at 3:27 PM EST on June 1st. However, in a narrow miss, fellow bassist Rob Harris also suggested the NXT name exactly 50 minutes later.

    Konrath wins one of the NXT basses, to be delivered when the instruments reach the U.S. market later this year. It will be Konrath’s second Steinberger-designed instrument, joining an L2 Bass. She writes:

    Wow…I cant believe it! Woohoo!

    I turned in several suggestions and this was one of my favorites…I’ve always been a big fan of your instruments and infact have an old L2 Bass that is in desperate need of a refret at this point; Or possibly retirement. 🙂

    Thanks so much…

    catherine

    I will be smiling for days, if not longer…

    NS Design thanks all its online supporters for the hundreds of name suggestions they entered in the contest, and for their great enthusiasm for NS instruments. The NXT series will become available in the U.S. later this year. Stay tuned to this site for pictures and more details.

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  • The Black Violin

    The black violinBack in the NS Design shop this month, after 12 years’ absence, was a very rare instrument. Known simply as “the black violin”, it’s a prototype that Ned built by hand shortly after leaving Steinberger Sound Company. He says that in many ways, it’s the culmination of the design ideas he began working on with bass guitars at the beginning of his career.

    Ned built the black violin intending to put it into production; he approached Zeta Instruments with that idea. At the time, Zeta was still part of Gibson, which had purchased Steinberger Sound Company. However, Zeta decided not to manufacture the instrument, concerned that it would not gain a wide enough following.

    “I understood then—and I understand even better now—that it’s not what people generally want in a violin,” Ned said. “It’s too radical.” Read More »

  • Thanks for the names

    The contest to gather name suggestions for our newest line of electric bowed instruments finished at the end of the day yesterday, June 15th.  We received over a thousand suggestions from 414 people.  We’ll announce the winner here soon, and hope to begin producing the instruments later this summer.  Thanks again to all who participated.

  • Preview: Kansas 35th anniversary concert

    David Ragsdale has sent us this video of the band Kansas rehearsing for their 35th anniversary concert. David’s performance on the CR violin is nothing short of awesome!

    Hey guys-

    While far from what the final product will look or sound like, here’s a bootleg video of the dress rehersal that someone posted on you tube. At least you can tell sort of what the fiddle sounds like-

    Rags


  • You name it!

    NS Design is coming out with a great new line of electric bowed instruments, and we want to give the line a great name to match. It’s not a CR. It’s not a WAV. It’s a _____? Suggest the winning name to us and win one of the instruments for your own!

    NS Design will award one of the new instruments to the first person to send us the winning name. Entrants may submit their suggestions online until June 15th.

    Designed by Ned Steinberger, the instruments will be produced in the Czech Republic at the same facilities that make NS Design’s flagship CR series of instruments. The new instruments will incorporate the same styling and workmanship as the CR series, but use more cost effective materials and passive pickup technology to bring the price in at midway between the CR and WAV series.

    NS design will put the new bass into production first, with additional instruments to follow.

    Contest rules: Void where prohibited. All entries must be submitted online at https://thinkns.com/nameit/nameit.php. In the event that more than one person has suggested the winning name, the first person to make the suggestion (as shown by the timestamp on the entry) will be the winner. NS Design reserves the right to cancel the contest at any time, and also reserves the right not to select any one of the entries submitted. Awarding of the instrument is contingent on its successful production, scheduled for late summer 2009 but subject to delay or cancellation.

  • Interview with Ed Howe

    Corey Redonnet, NS Design’s artist relations manager, recently sat down with Ed Howe, a violinist who plays the CR-5 and who has worked closely with Ned over the years. Here is the transcript of their conversation:


    NS CR: Allright Ed, thanks for coming out today. I’d like to get a little bit of background, where you are from, what you’ve done,


    ED: I’m a fiddle player. I got into electronic music at an early age. My father was a mechanical engineer, and for the longest time, I kept the two separate until just recently when I met Ned Steinberger, and I said “Hey, this is a wonderful idea to put the two together, and now I’ve got this crazy electric violin (NS Design CR-5), that I’ve been touting around and having a ball with it.”


    NS CR: Coming from more of a fiddling background, playing an acoustic instrument of course, what was your big turning point to actually pick up an electric violin, instead of staying with a pick up system on a regular acoustic (violin).

    Read More »

  • WAV to appear at Denver concert

    Violinist Gregory Walker writes with an invitation to anyone in the Denver area to catch the debut of his WAV violin in a Jazz performance on Thursday, April 30th.

    Dear Friends,

    It’s not every day I get to explore jazz improvisation with the violin,
    but next Thursday, May 30th, at 7:30 pm at Denver’s Kenneth King Center
    for the Performing Arts, I’ll be performing with Irina Moreland in a
    University of Colorado Denver faculty jazz event – and attempting to
    swing with the best of them!

    In the process, I’ll also be busting out a new electric instrument from
    my friends over at NS Designs in Maine: the WAV violin!

    Gregory

    P.S.

    Blending of Jazz
    Featuring Irina Moreland, piano
    Thursday, April 30 • 7:30pm
    King Center Concert Hall
    Tickets: $12 General Admission,
    $5 UC Denver students
    Sponsored by: Music & Entertainment Industry Studies Department, Faculty
    Performance Series

    Join Gregory Walker, the Drew Morell Trio, Judith Coe, and Sophia
    Park-Song with other music faculty for an evening of jazz discovery.
    From the classical arrangements of the Drew Morell Trio, Judy Coe’s
    vibrant rendition of Latin Bossa Nova, a touch of modernism with Gregory
    Walker’s violin, Irina Moreland’s voyage with Rachmaninoff into the
    world of jazz, and entrancing interpretation of Milhaud’s Scaramouche
    an evening of excitement and startling variation awaits for all music
    lovers.

    Click here for the official concert announcement.

  • Prague Spring

    In Prague to visit the NS factory, I came across the “Original Prague Syncopated Orchestra” playing 1920s Jazz on the beautiful Charles Bridge. What caught my eye was the violinist, who was playing a strange hybrid violin with a brass horn wrapped around the back of his head.   I introduced myself to Jan Simunek, who explained that the design, called a violinophone, gained some popularity early in the last century, and that the sound is perfect for the jazz music he loves to play.

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    I thought that those of you who, like me, enjoy inventive instruments from the past, would find this interesting.  It’s a bit like it’s better known cousin, the Stroh violin, which also uses a horn, but this one is even more fun. As you can see in the photos, it incorporates a shoulder rest for the right shoulder and none for the left!   The sound is pure and sweet, but a little thin and quiet compared to a normal violin.